MORBID ANATOMY MUSEUM: Do The Spirits Return? From Dark Arts to Sleight of Hand


Morbid Anatomy Museum Opens Third Exhibition Featuring Rarely Seen Artifacts

Related to Early Stage Magic and the Occult

The Morbid Anatomy Museum launches a new exhibition: Do The Spirits Return?: From Dark Arts to Sleight of Hand in Early 20th Century Stage Magic

Brooklyn, NY — On April 11, the Morbid Anatomy Museum launched its third exhibition devoted to the surprising relationships between 19th and early 20th century stage magic and the religion of Spiritualism, the pleasures of horror, the empowerment of women and the role of the devil, as exemplified by the life and work of Howard Thurston (1869-1936). The exhibition features stunning and rarely exhibited original stage props, posters, photographs, artworks, letters, books, and even the fabled “Luxor Mummy,” all drawn from the collection of Brooklyn native Rory Feldman. The show was curated by Morbid Anatomy Museum creative director Joanna Ebenstein and programmer in residence Shannon Taggart.

Howard Thurston was arguably the most famous magician of his time, with a reputation and celebrity rivaling that of Harry Houdini. Thurston was, by all accounts, a masterful, beloved performer who was especially popular with children. At the height of his fame, he toured the country in an eight-car train filled with more than forty tons of illusions, scenery, animals, and costumes. But, before becoming renowned for his epic stage shows, Howard Thurston tried out many other roles in his life. As a tramp, he rode the rails and lived in what were termed “hobo jungles;” as “The Nimble Kid,” he ran with gangs and committed petty theft; he was employed as a barker for a human zoo at Coney Island, acted as a con man, worked the vaudeville circuit, and even tried his hand at missionary work. In this way, Thurston’s life reflects the paradoxes and blurred boundaries at the heart of magic itself.

The show will be on view from Saturday, April 11, 2015 – Tuesday, January 5, 2016. During this time, the museum will be producing lectures, symposia, performances and workshops inspired by the themes of the show. Topics covered will explore the connections between stage magic and placebos, shamanism, alchemy, faith healing, the occult, hell and purgatory, and more.

Full list of events can be found here.